So many bad things came together in the affair over the article entitled What Remained of Greater Serbia by the Montenegrin writer Andrej Nikolaidis!
Central to the affair is the well-known story of the different meanings of Republika Srpska. Founded in war, the 49% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territory could serve as a reminder to us in Serbia too of a terrible tragedy and an inexcusable crime. Instead, we in Serbia are winking at our neighbors over the Drina, counting down the remaining years until the brothers on both sides of the river unite. More than anything else, Republika Srpska brings us back to the question of the existence of collective moral responsibility for the consequences of Serbia’s warmongering politics in the 1990’s. This is a question which never really came to life, barely twitching instead below the infamous platitude of facing our past.
This is the Republika Srpska that was censed on its 20-year anniversary by the Serbian Orthodox Church priests, together with Serbian statesmen, and this is where trouble begins. The president of Serbia was given a medal on a ribbon, he paraded it through the streets of Banja Luka, probably not remembering how in his own country less than two years ago he barely managed to push through a resolution on Srebrenica, which, if nothing else, provides a moral evasion of the possibility to be awarded a medal by Milorad Dodik.
In the midst of all this, a letter from Podgorica arrived, from Andrej Nikolaidis, a writer who alongside eleven other writers was recently awarded a European Union prize for literature, and some time earlier became an advisor to the speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament, Ranko Krivokapic. There were two ideas from his article that drew the public’s attention. Inspired by the lines from Starship Troopers, the author states that “the claim that Republika Srpska has no future, because it was founded on genocide, has to be countered with a reply: tell that to the American Indians.” After this we have a metaphor, and this idea is valuable.
Unlike the other one, which revealed the shallowness of Nikolaidis himself. This is the idea of a fictional civilizational advance which is, again, placed in an imaginary context. However you read it, the problematic section of Nikolaidis’ piece, regardless of how much you emphasize the context, cannot be seen as anything but an example of irresponsible and inconsiderate speech. Subsequent reminders that these are the thoughts of a writer, and not of an adviser, only served to drown the writer’s moral integrity in political pragmatism. And this deserves neither praise nor condemnation, nor anything else.
This horrific carnival was enriched by the Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs, Ivica Dacic. He threatened Sreten Ugricic, the director of the National Library of Serbia, saying he can only defend the Montenegrin “terrorist-writer” from a prison cell, but not from the position of the director of a public institution, because this was the only possible moral course of action. We saw a man, Ivica Dacic, who 20 years ago, when Republika Srpska was being molded, explained to us speaking on behalf of the Socialist Party of Serbia, why it is necessary to fight a war. In the name of this politics and in our – the Serbian citizens’ – name, genocide was committed on the territory of Republika Srpska and for Republika Srpska. The most heinous crime in half a century. And now a participant of that politics, without a trace of guilt for the thousands murdered in Srebrenica, feels entitled to judge a writer’s terrorism and Ugricic’s support of a terrorist. Sreten Ugricic was removed.
All these images crystalized one point. That our society, like other modern developed societies, must rest on certain moral principles in order for institutions to become functional, for the state to become stable, and for us to live normally. Today our society is completely broken, nothing was really being confronted, no social norms were established, and therefore it is possible for unhinged politicians to celebrate Republika Srpska and its 20th birthday, for us to be reminded of moral sentiments by a spokesman of a warmongering political party, and for a word or a sentence by a bad advisor and columnist to raise a storm of controversy in our public discussion.